5 players to watch
5 players to watch
March 5 2003
The Desert Sun
Height: 5-8 1/2
Home: Bree, Belgium
Why she'll win: With the exception of last year, Clijsters has been solid at Indian Wells, reaching the 2001 finals against Serena Williams. Strong and athletic, Clijsters has become one of the tour’s elite players. Had an impressive run in the WTA Championships, defeating Williams in the finals. Right now, she is arguably the best player in the world not named Williams. The good news for her is neither Venus nor Serena Williams are in the field. She is also a 2001 finalist in the French Open.
Why she won’t win: Suffered surprising loss in Scottsdale, Ariz., falling to doubles partner Ai Sugiyama. Has not been able to capitalize strong finish to 2001. She could also still be haunted by the Australian Open semifinal, where she blew a 5-2 lead in the third and couldn’t convert on two match points against Serena Williams. All the talk by her father, Leo, can be distracting, saying she could retire in three years and also move from her home in Belgium because of taxes.
Notes: Her only bad showing in Indian Wells was when she lost in the first round last year. It was her first tournament back after struggling with injuries. She was only the fifth No. 1 seed in a Tier I event since 1980 to lose in her first match, falling to France’s Nathalie Dechy.
Height: 6-2 1/2
Home: Laguna Beach
Why she’ll win: Davenport has the most titles at Indian Wells with singles titles in 1997 and 2000. She also has five doubles titles, the last coming in 2000 with Corina Morariu. She is also the winner of three Grand Slam titles and former No. 1. Davenport looks to be back after knee surgery a year ago, returning to the top-10 earlier this year. She won the first Tier 1 event of the year in the Tokyo Pan-Pacific, defeating Monica Seles.
Why she won’t win: Although Davenport has returned to the Top-10, she struggles with inconsistency. She lost in her first match in Scottsdale, Ariz., to eventual champion Ai Sugiyama in three sets. She is more vulnerable than she has been in the past. At the Australian Open, she lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the fourth round. She blew a 4-1 lead in the fourth before falling 9-7 in the third in a match that lasted 3 hours, 13 minutes.
Notes: Davenport has won at Indian Wells in three-year intervals, taking the title in 1997, then again in 2000. And it’s been three years since her last title. Davenport is also in her first season with new coach and future brother-in-law Rick Leach. Robert Van’t Hof, Davenport’s coach since 1996, quit coaching at the end of last year to spend more time with his family.
Home: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Why she’ll win: A talented, versatile player who rose to the occasion last year when she defeated Justine Henin and Martina Hingis en route to her first WTA title last year at Indian Wells. Her victory propelled her to finish the year at No. 8. She was instrumental in leading Slovakia to its first Fed Cup title in November. She also reached the quarterfinals of the last three Grand Slams, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and the Australian Open. She hits the ball fluidly from both sides and is dangerous on all surfaces.
Why she won’t win: She has figured out how to break into the top-10, but not how to win a tournament title. Outside of winning at Indian Wells, her only other tournament final was at Filderstadt, Germany in October. This will be her first time as the defending champion, and presumably the first time she will play with a target on her back. That can be a tough adjustment.
Notes: She has been referred to as the "Bratislava Babe" and many believe she can fill the void when Anna Kournikova ends competitive play. She istouted for her legs, which are reported to be 44-inches long, the longest in the history of women’s tennis. Hantuchova wants to be respected for her game, so don’t expect her in music videos any time soon.
Height: 5-8 1/2
Home: Saddlebrook, Fla.
Why she’ll win: Capriati is one of the best fighters in tennis. Her groundstrokes are among the best in the game. She probably has the best heart in tennis, as demonstrated in the 2002 Australian Open finals when she rallied against Martina Hingis in blistering heat. The major obstacle for her has been the Williams sisters, neither of whom are in Indian Wells.
Why she won’t win: You begin to wonder if midnight already struck on tennis’ Cinderella story. She has not won a tournament since the 2002 Australian Open. To make matters worst, Capriati also had surgery on her eyes after the WTA Championships in November, which resulted in stitches in both eyes. She had problems with her eyes in losing to Marlene Weingarten in the first round of the Australian Open, a tournament she said she probably wouldn’t have played if she wasn’t the two-time defending champion. Capriati has also struggled with her serve, which has become a glaring weakness.
Notes: Capriati’s eye condition is known as pterygiums, a growth on the cornea caused by exposure to the sun. "For two weeks, basically, I was in the dark, because I couldn’t be in the sunlight. My eyes were too sensitive," Capriati said at the Australian Open. Star gazers alert: She has been linked to "Friends" star Matthew Perry, who is a huge tennis fan and former junior player.
Home: Geneva, Switzerland
Why she’ll win: One of the strongest hitters in the game, Mauresmo has been on the brink of something special since reaching the finals of the Australian Open in 1999. Has become a better player in the big tournaments, reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The hard courts and thin desert air should suit her game if she can control the ball. At the U.S. Open and Australian Open, the two hardcourt grand slams, she has a 30-9 record.
Why she won’t win: The reason she hasn’t broken through is a long list of injuries. At times, she can be vulnerable mentally. She rarely has played at Indian Wells, so if she doesn’t adjust to the conditions quickly, her stay could be brief.
Notes: Mauresmo is the fourth in the Open era to make back-to-back semifinal berths at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Jennifer Capriati (1991) Betty Stove (1977) and Coachella Valley resident Rosie Casals (1969).